By Duop Chak Wuol
September 14, 2018 (SSNA) — Throughout the South Sudanese peace process, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-In Opposition (SPLM-IO) has been faced with serious political issues. These issues make it nearly impossible for the armed opposition to come up with a counterproposal that could force the government to accept a genuine peace. The armed opposition failed the people of South Sudan by accepting a pro-tyrannical peace deal that will only work in favor of Salva Kiir. The recently signed Sudan-mediated revitalized peace agreement is designed to empower Kiir’s brutality, keep elites in control, and deny democratic reforms to take shape. This peace agreement is not just wrong; it is a looming disaster for the people of South Sudan.
Why is the Khartoum’s power-sharing deal disaster?
There are many critical issues the East African regional peace mediators have ignored. However, the failure to address the root causes of the civil war, expansion of the government, the issue of 32 states, proposed legislative body, and the failure to replace the current National Constitutional Review Commission with an impartial and inclusive body are the main issues that the SPLM-IO should have paid close attention to. It is good to remind people that most of the SPLM-IO’s fundamental reform provisions were deliberately rejected by the mediators in late August.
Kiir’s regime and its regional allies are working hard to make sure this pro-Juba peace deal is materialized. For instance, during the signing process in Addis Ababa, the government, SPLM-IO, and other political parties were forced to agree that the National Constitutional Review Commission, which is currently being run by Kiir’s loyalists, will only be restructured in the fourth month of the transitional period. The new provision stipulates that an internationally renowned constitutional entity will conduct workshops for parties to the conflict and that the parties would then use the outcome of the workshops to draft a new legislation to amend the constitution.
Why would the armed opposition and other parties accept to amend the constitution four months after the transitional period begin?
It is important to remind people that Juba’s regime consistently refused to allow the proposed constitutional review committee to study and amend the current tyrannical constitution. There are also logical reasons to believe that four months are enough for Kiir to formulate a strategy that could impede the constitutional review process to carry out its mandates, let alone the fact that the requirement is stipulated in the final pact.
This peace was pre-determined by the incumbent Transitional Government of National Unity (TGoNU). Everything in it was designed by Kiir to make sure he accommodates SPLM-IO’s leaders in exchange for his cruelty to continue. What I find baffling is that the armed opposition keeps arguing that it accepts the agreement because it wants to end the suffering of South Sudanese refugees and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs). The SPLM-IO is categorically wrong on this. Remember, the armed opposition did not cause the ongoing conflict. Its soldiers and supporters are technically living outside Juba and other government-controlled cities. The idea that it wants to end the war by abandoning its reform agenda without giving a reasonable explanation is absurd. The armed opposition fought for almost five years, claiming it worked for reforming the political system. It is now clear that the SPLM-IO is merely looking for ways to rejoin the very tyrannical system it once rejected. This is rather intriguing, to say the least.
There is a newly-found argument within the SPLM-IO that assertively claims that anyone who questions the viability of the peace deal is wrong or is against its doctrine. Even some of the armed opposition supporters went too far, calling on those who questioned SPLM-IO’s peace strategy to either go to the bush or shut-up. This is, again, one of the fallacious arguments being disseminated by clueless armed opposition supporters who seem to lack critical thinking. For example, when Juba initially attached reopening of oil fields to Khartoum’s peace agreement, every sensible South Sudanese knew that Kiir was not working for real peace; rather, he was looking for ways to have huge financial power before the SPLM-IO and anyone who opposed his leadership to strike a deal with him. He did this to make sure that he maintains an upper-hand, should the war resume in Juba when rebels rejoin his government. This issue was raised by many South Sudanese political analysts—nevertheless, the supposedly democratic movement of SPLM-IO suddenly became hostile to those who questioned its political dogma.
Do you still remember when in August 2015 Kiir signed the agreement with a list of reservations?
The SPLM-IO has been committing serious violations by allowing Juba’s repressive regime to get whatever it wants. For instance, the armed opposition released Prisoners of War (POWs) and political detainees and abide by ceasefire agreements while the government keeps prosecuting POWs and political prisoners and keep attacking the armed opposition positions. Kiir also refuses to accept SPLM-IO’s peace deal provisions he sees as a threat to his ruthless leadership. This systematic refusal of the armed opposition demands seems to work in Kiir’s favor. For example, the most contentious issues in this peace agreement are the issue of 32 states, National Constitutional Review Commission, the consensus in the proposed incumbent government-dominated parliament, root causes of the civil war, security arrangements among others. Kiir is truly a calculating dictator. After he realized in Addis Ababa that the SPLM-IO would refuse to sign the final deal, he then instructed his negotiating team to come up with a smart way to lure the armed opposition and other political leaders to accept the agreement. He did this by downplaying that the issue of 32 states is not a big problem because a body proposed in the pact will be tasked to resolve it or the people of South Sudan will decide through elections. Kiir also traps the SPLM-IO by claiming that constitutional amendments will be conducted four months after the transitional period began. This is a monumental red flag that the armed opposition and other political leaders failed to examine. The armed opposition must tell the people of South Sudan why it puts too much focus on wanting to secure a peace deal while the government is simply working hard to destroy its existence.
Is the recent peace deal really the democratic agenda the armed opposition has been singing for nearly five years?
It is increasingly becoming more evident that the SPLM-IO is prepared to sign-up for any deal if it is given its shares in any proposed transitional government. This decision appears to be politically correct, but it can only be just if the armed opposition is simply fighting for its own viability, not on behalf of the people. For nearly five years, the SPLM-IO vowed to either reform South Sudan’s political system or remove Kiir from power by all necessary means. Now the very central idea the armed opposition drove its existence from is surprisingly vanishing. The SPLM-IO did not sign a good deal. The Khartoum peace agreement is not a good deal. What the armed opposition signed is an accommodative pact — this is no different from exchanging your own freedom with an autocratic ring. Kiir is an experienced and cunning tyrant. This peace is not a real peace, but a rather all about awarding positions to the SPLM-IO and other political parties. Kiir wants these parties to abandon their political doctrines and rejoin this infamous Oyee’s band. It is shameful and must be confronted by the people of South Sudan. The elites in South Sudan must be told by the people that they are working for their own bellies, not the people.
The SPLM-IO’s apparent deal with the government suggests that South Sudan’s current tyrannical leadership could probably continue ruling for years. It must be made abundantly clear that the armed opposition has no legislative or constitutional power to amend the constitution. Kiir rules by decree and he loves it. Any attempt to deny him such a one-man rule is doomed to failure because he will have a legislative number to overrule any attempt to democratize the constitution. Constitutional changes are done through parliament or an established legal entity. This peace deal is simply an empowering of the existing Kiir’s viciousness because the two important government branches, the National Constitutional Review Commission and the future transitional Parliament, will be controlled by Salva Kiir’s fanatics. The SPLM-IO and some of its clueless supporters must stop waging a deceitful campaign to try to push people into believing that Khartoum’s power-sharing deal is the real deal. The idea that reforms will be done after the armed opposition rejoined the government is simply a political blunder. This seemingly twisted assumption can only be accepted by uninformed individuals. If the SPLM-IO is fully committed to this questionable deal, then it must prepare for a third political tragedy. This is the 21st-century: the days of political cults are over.
The author can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.